What is a Research Article?

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  • Written By: Karyn Maier
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 28 September 2019
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A research article is a written paper that illustrates an outcome of scientific research with supporting clinical data. This differs from other types of informative articles, such as magazine features or research papers, which typically address the topic in a general scope as a means of introduction. A research article, on the other hand, is written by and for researchers for the purpose of making specific findings known to the scientific community at large. In fact, rather than appearing in a consumer or industry publication, a research article is found exclusively in a peer-reviewed scientific or medical journal, such as The Journal of the American Medical Association, for example.

Another key difference between other papers and a research article is that the latter strictly presents facts, rather than serve as a letter of opinion or a summary of the existing scientific literature. However, most scientific journals simultaneously publish such letters, as well as reviews of the body of existing research methods and findings.


As with any type of targeted writing, there is a protocol to follow when writing a research article in terms of layout. The title, for example, should provide a summary statement that either describes the research or presents the main conclusion drawn from the work. This not only helps the article to be noticed in table of contents in the print version of the scientific journal, but also assists in indexing the article in electronic forms. For instance, PubMed Medline is an online database of published journal material provided by the U.S. National Library of Medicine. A lookup of a key word or phrase scans articles published in thousands of scientific journals, and returns search results according to their relevance in the title.

The author or authors of a research article are listed according to their degree of contribution to the work, easily permitting one to identify the lead researcher. The last name followed by first and middle initials format is typically used. When there are many authors presenting the article, only the first three names are usually required to include when referencing or citing the article in another paper. In addition, one author is usually selected to serve as a contact for further information or comment about the article, as well as the party responsible for future amendments or updates. If appropriate, the affiliated university or research facility follows the authors’ names.

While most other forms of articles contain a summary at its end, the process is reversed in a research article. In fact, the summary, known as the abstract, precedes the full content of the paper. There is also a specific formula for its construction. It contains one or two introductory sentences explaining the necessity of the research performed, followed by the methodology used, the results found, and how the researchers applied the results. Finally, the abstract contains a single sentence representing a statement of conclusion of the authors based on these findings.


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Post 4

This definition is really thorough and helpful to understand research articles in Medicine and the Life Sciences. Does this definition apply to articles in the Humanities, Social Sciences, and STM?

Post 3

I found that the most useful tool for writing a research article is to start with an outline of your topic. In the outline, layout what you plan to write about and the significant details that will make your research article informative. Then, when you begin writing, you will be able to expand on your outline in each section of your review with the research materials you plan to use to support your findings.

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